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I went and interviewed with another company and received an offer of employment. Now, I wasn’t actually sure if I was going to accept the offer for a few different reasons, but I was weighing up my options.

Anyways, somehow my area manager found out that I got offered the job and told my manager that I was resigning. This caused a lot of tension at work, escalating current issues to the point where I no longer felt comfortable at work and accepted the job just so I could leave.

So, did my area manager breach my privacy by telling my direct manager I was resigning before I had the option to decide if I wanted to accept the job and be able to tell them myself?

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    Unfortunately I feel this is more of a company policy, or possibly one for law.stackexchange.com
    – ThaRobster
    Commented May 2 at 10:04
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    What do you mean by "breach my privacy"? Did you tell them with the understanding they should not tell anyone else? Are there any laws where you live for this kind of information?
    – nvoigt
    Commented May 2 at 10:04
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    How the area manager found out that you got offered a job?
    – nicola
    Commented May 2 at 10:27
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    I get the conondrum but what do you want to achieve in the end? Sue the company? Make a shiny banner shaming the person? What's the end goal here., as seems you've acccepted the job anyway, this won't really impact you anymore.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented May 2 at 10:40
  • So is the "area manger" your manager's supervisor? If they are then your manager had a right to be informed by their supervisor. However, any tensions that might or might not have happen, likely is the real problem. I would argue those tensions likely would have happen regardless of when your supervisor was made aware since they obviously reacted the way they did because they were caught off guard. This isn't to say their reaction was justified.
    – Donald
    Commented May 2 at 13:48

8 Answers 8

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did my area manager breach my privacy ?

What privacy? Planning how to deal with departing or (potentially departing) employees is normal company business as is the communication around this.

There is no expectation that your area manager would need to keep this private UNLESS the way they received the information clearly came with an expectation of confidentiality. Even that would be iffy. Typically "hey, I'm telling you but don't tell anyone else" doesn't work since it creates a conflict of interest for the area manager.

If the area manager found out from your future employer, then the fault is with them. You can reasonably expect that the hiring process is confidential until you have officially resigned.

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    And a variety of things you might tell a manager with you having an expectation of confidentiality can't be kept confidential by the manager for legal reasons. As management there are lots of things that they can't keep quiet about once informed (e.g. sexual harassment, waste fraud & abuse, ...).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 2 at 13:50
  • @JonCuster this wouldn't fall under those legal reasons. But on the other hand it's also hard to see how this is ever supposed to be 'implied' personal information. The only reason might be if it's something like: 'hey I think i'm pregnant, too early to know for sure but that would have me look for another job so I can work less hours in the future'. But even then that you are looking for a new job (or trying to work less hours) isn't the private part - the reason is.
    – paul23
    Commented May 3 at 5:08
  • It is totally reasonable to tell a manager things in confidence even when this does create a conflict of interest. This lets you inform a trusted line manager about things that you'd be scared of telling to others in the organisation due to the potential repercussions for your career. Yes, it creates an awkward situation for the manager, tactically and ethically, but that's part of their job and it may still be better for the org than you staying silent entirely. That said, if you haven't in some way agreed a conversation is in confidence, you can't expect your manager to act like it is.
    – Mark Amery
    Commented May 3 at 12:29
  • @paul23 - I agree. But some people don’t even think about it. Just good to remind them at times.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 3 at 13:04
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    @JonCuster As a low-level manager I completely agree, this needs to be shouted from the rooftops more often. It has happened to me on more than one occasion in two short years that staff contacted me with "I have experienced harassment / abuse, but you cannot tell anyone". If you do that you are setting me up to either violate the law or your trust.
    – xLeitix
    Commented May 4 at 11:23
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So, did my area manager breach my privacy by telling my direct manager i was resigning before i had the option to decide if i wanted to accept the job and be able to tell themself?

No. There's nothing private about that data.

It's likely someone in your area manager's professional network informed him about your interview. It makes complete sense that this information would be passed on to your boss for his planning.

It's possible that someone "breached your privacy" - perhaps the hiring manager, or someone else who interviewed you. But there are no legal ramifications behind such a "breach", even if it might be considered unethical.

Find out how you want to deal with this information being made public now. It likely wouldn't make any sense to deny it. You could tell your direct manager now that you haven't yet made up your mind (if that's true).

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    I find it difficult to agree that it makes complete sense that the information would be passed on. I mean, as far as I know, what makes sense is that job searches should be confidential, especially while they're still in progress. A company you're interviewing with shouldn't tell your current employer that you're interviewing (without your permission). Of course this isn't a legal matter, but it is basic professional ethics.
    – David Z
    Commented May 3 at 5:14
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    @DavidZ I read the answer to mean that it makes sense that the area manager would tell the direct manager once they knew, which it absolutely does. It doesn't make much sense that the area manager found out from a third party - that's the weird part of the situation. Commented May 3 at 15:44
  • Ohh I see, yeah I misunderstood that then. Sorry! I made a mistake when I originally read the answer and thought it was about how the information got from the other company to OP's current company. (It would probably help head off this sort of misunderstanding if "There's nothing private about that data" were changed to "There's no expectation that that data be kept private within your current company", or something to that effect, because - I'd argue - there is something private about that data, it's just the other company that has the obligation to keep it private.)
    – David Z
    Commented May 5 at 5:10
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Anyways, somehow my area manager found out that i got offered the job and told my manager that I was resigning. This caused a lot of tension at work, escalating current issues to the point where I no longer felt comfortable at work and accepted the job just so i could leave.

If you have (or had) a positive relationship with your area manager, I think it would be generous of you to mention this to them. It doesn't sound like they were trying to get you to quit, but rather, that they had the mistaken impression that you were going to quit regardless. I don't know if it's helpful to view this as a matter of "privacy", but it's in their best interest to know that it can be unwise to share unvetted information with people who might abuse it.

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So - there are some scenarios where you might have grounds to be annoyed. The most common one being:

  • If you told your manager or area manager in confidence and they then blabbed that to everyone

However, from your question - it doesn't sound like that is the case - it sounds like that your regional manager heard you were looking, presumed you were leaving (which is a bad mark against them...) - in which case - they do have some grounds to discuss it with management.

This is, an unfortunate risk.

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As others pointed out your privacy was not breached when the area manager informed your manager. Your privacy was breached when somehow the area manager found out. In Europe you can send them through a lawyer a letter asking to disclose how your privacy was breached.

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The breach of privacy is not really relevant. What’s relevant is that you hadn’t resigned at the time, so your area manager was lying about you.

And because of the lying the company went from a 50% chance of losing you to a 100% certainty. Losing employees by resigning usually costs a company money, so his company lost money because of his stupid lies.

You can tell anyone in the company just what happens: That you received an offer, that you were thinking about it but not decided, and that you were forced by the areas manager lies to leave.

The people who “created tension” and “escalated current issues” should also think hard about their behaviour. Someone leaving is no reason to treat them badly. For example someone being nice and saying “I was told that you resigned. I’m so sorry to hear that; we will miss you” costs nothing and could have kept you there.

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Headcount planning is a legitimate business need. Knowing that someone may be leaving lets the search for a replacement start sooner. Unless a manager directly promised not to share your concerns about your future with the company, I would assume that they would act in them; that's their job if you didn't want it know, you shouldn't have said it, or should have been more careful about your phrasing.

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The real question about privacy is, how did they find out? If they hacked your email and found out about your offer that way, then maybe you have a case.

That being said, you may now simply not resign, and tell your boss to fire you... with severance. Or even better, you may have a case for harassment. But that would not be about privacy, and I am not a lawyer, just offering my best guess of where to start approaching a lawyer.

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    It's far more likely that OP's recruiter (or someone he's interacted with) has phoned his boss to canvas to replace him
    – Richard
    Commented May 5 at 9:15

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